The last two decades in collective bargaining in professional sports have seen a dramatic shift toward aggressive management bargaining. The last seven work stoppages in professional sports have been the result of lockouts. Many factors can be attributed for this change, but this Essay focuses on one—the legitimization of the offensive use of the lockout. The expansion of the lockout has enabled team owners to claw back some of the gains made by professional sports unions over the last several decades and has helped tilt the labor-management relations scale toward management.
This Essay examines the evolution of the lockout and its impact on labor relations in professional sports, with a particular focus on the most recent labor battles in the NFL and the NBA. This Essay also explores the players’ attempts to use antitrust law to neutralize the offensive lockouts and the consequent battle between antitrust and labor law. This battle will be the critical factor in determining the continued trajectory of labor relations in professional sports.